What’s in a name, Jack?

Hello everyone. My name is John. That’s John with a ‘J,’ an ‘O,’ an ‘H’ and ending with a single ‘N.’

Not Jack. Not Jeff. Not Charles, not Chet. Not Jim. Not Ben. Not Alan.

Why the snit about my name?

For most of my life people have had the hardest time with my name. It is a tough name, John.

I will introduce myself at a party, or a business meeting and the most outlandish names come back at me. I don’t have a strange accent, or a speech impediment. It is others who have this odd myopia of the ear when it comes to my name.

I used to not even like the name John. Its association with toilets and the clients of prostitutes made me wish my parents had considered more carefully before labeling me with ‘John.’ Now it is the hill for which I am ever fighting.

My family was not big on nick names. Only my grandmother could get away with calling me ‘Johnny.’ Friends of my parents also had a son named John. I was known to them as ‘Little John.’ I loved that.

My least favorite, of course, was the over familiar ‘Jack.’ There was a Jack in my second grade class who, even at that tender age, was someone not to be taken seriously. A good time Charlie, if you will. I removed myself from that name as far as possible.

Again, there were the dubious associations with the name ‘Jack’ that I wanted no part of: ‘jack of all trades,’ ‘jack around,’ ‘jack off,’ ‘jack shit,’ ‘you don’t know jack,’ ‘jackass,’ and my favorite, ‘all work and no pay makes no jack at all.’

Ever hear of Jack the Ripper?

Then there was that fool with the bean stalk.

The only, lonely counterpoint to all that negativity is the personification of cool, Jack, the spokesman for Jack-in-the-box hamburgers.

Jack Daniels, Jack Skellington, and Jack Sparrow each transcend their ‘jackness.’ No one thinks of any of them as merely ‘Jack.’ Nor should they.

When Jack Kennedy was president, he was also just one of the guys. Really? I didn’t buy it.

I met a guy in (fill in blank). I offered my hand. “Hi, I’m John.”




“Actually, it’s John.”


“My name is John.”

“Good to meet you Jack.” We did not become friends.

Wearying of the struggle, I now offer baristas an alias, rather than say my name and then watch them write almost anything down on the cup meant for me.

I told my wife about this inability of others to ‘hear’ my name correctly. She thought it was an absurd joke (and it is), until she witnessed it happen more than once. You can guess her pet name for me.

At my daughter’s graduation, my ex-wife heard her call me Jack.  She asked, “Why do you call him Jack?” You should have seen the smile light up my ex’s face when my wife told her “because he hates it.”

UPS delivered a package to our door the other day. My mother, the woman who named me, sent me a box of books for no particular reason, ‘just because.’ What a nice surprise! The name to whom it was addressed?


2 thoughts on “What’s in a name, Jack?

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